- women sharing support, connection & compassion
- allies, helpers & guides
- women united in ritual
Psychoanalyst Jean Baker Miller has written that, "women stay with, build on, and develop in a context of attachment and affiliation with others" (Lowinsky, 1992, p. 55). Essentially, we need other women to become, and be, ourselves. The media and popular entertainment often show us a terrain of women's interpersonal relationships with one another pockmarked by strife and discord. Let's take a look at a few images from True Blood to the contrary:
|Tara experiences the support of other women rape survivors|
|Arlene hires Holly|
|Holly provides Arlene with moral support and empathy|
|Sookie and Jessica have a warming relationship|
These True Blood images have some counterparts from archaic history.
As you can read in the notes associated with the left-hand image below, it depicts two women; perhaps sisters, mother and daughter, or lovers. The image comes from a temple in India; it is a representation of the way in which women were often shown together interacting in loving and beautiful ways in ancient times. It is much the same with the right-hand image depicting two women pouring libations together. The left-hand image comes from the book Shakti Woman by Vicki Noble - the author suggests that only under patriarchy did women become estranged from one another and competitive in relation to men. The image on the right comes from expert on female iconography Max Dashu's website http://www.suppressedhistories.net/index.html
Looks kinda like Tara and Sookie in the shot below, huh?
ALLIES, HELPERS & GUIDES
Sookie's encountered quite a few allies, helpers, and guides of the female persuasion in Season 3 of True Blood:
|Claudine outstretches a helping hand to Sookie|
|Sookie & Claudine|
|Janine oversees Sookie's Lou Pines makeover|
|Tara orchestrates Sookie's escape from |
the King of Mississippi's captivity
|Yvetta helps Sookie escape from Eric's dungeon|
On the right, we see Isis leading Queen Nofretari. This scene, dated to 1300 B.C.E. is painted on a wall of the queen's tomb and the inscription reads: Isis speaks: Come, Nofretari, beloved of the Goddess Nut, without fault, that I may show thee thy place in the sacred world (Austen, 1990, p. 48).
Here, we see ancient and contemporary images of divine and mortal allies, helpers, and guides which stand in stark contrast to the images of female conflict and rivalry we've seen.
On her website "The Suppressed Histories Archives: Real Women, Global Vision" Max Dashu speaks of elder women leading and guiding younger women in womanhood initiations and coming of age ceremonies. These are cross-cultural rites of "seclusion, vision-seeking, body-painting, instruction by elders, and the dance of new women before the entire community, in sacred regalia, with cowrie strands, masks, beaded veils, layers of cloth, new belts or the long skirts of adult women...These rites are now being reclaimed - in some places they were never lost, in many they were crushed, and in others, where they were turned to enforcing masculine dominance, many women are choosing to change harmful practices while keeping the sacred core of the most ancient traditions" http://www.suppressedhistories.net/catalog/spheres.html.
Not only have women led each other in becoming, they have led and continue to lead each other, their families, and their communities in overcoming.
Max Dashu speaks of rebel shamans - indigenous women in solidarity with one another - confronting empire. "Priestesses, diviners, and medicine women stand out as leaders of aboriginal liberation movements against conquest, empire, and cultural colonization". http://www.suppressedhistories.net/catalog/shamanliberators.html
Dashu's visual presentation Rebel Shamans introduces us to female shamans and leaders who led resistance movements; here are some of those she covers:
Wanakhucha, the mganga priestess who led the Zigula exodus out of slavery in Somalia; Veleda of the Bructerii (Netherlands), Dahia al-Kahina (Tunisia), the Kumari of Taleju (Nepal), Jeanne d'Arc (France), Tang Saier (China), Juana Icha (Peru), Kimba Vita (Congo), Maria Candelaria (Chiapas), Queen Nanny of the Maroons (Jamaica), Cécile Fatiman (Haiti), Antonia Luzia (Brazil), Toypurina (Tongva Nation, California), the Prophetess of Chupu (Chumash Nation), Wanankhucha (Somalia), Lozen (Apache Nation), Teresa de Cabora (Mayo, Sonora), Nehanda Nyakasikana (Zimbabwe), Muhumusa (Uganda), Nomtetha Nkwenkwe (Xhosa, South Africa), Alinesitoué Diatta (Senegal). Please visit her website for more information and images!
Here's a book on my reading list: The Bond Between Women: A Journey to Fierce Compassion by China Galland. According to the editorial review, Galland draws inspiration from her travels in Asia and Latin America where she meets women of extraordinary activism who are battling the scourge of child prostitution, demonstrating against murderous dictatorship, and quietly, but no less dramatically, working to increase literacy amongst poor women and children and de-polluting rivers.
These are women joined to one another in their work for justice and healing, like the mothers of the "disappeared" in Argentina who bear witness against the government that stole the lives of their children. You can see some of these mothers of the disappeared united in struggle and rememberance in the U2 concert footage below; on U2's album The Joshua Tree there is a song called "Mothers of the Disappeared" which you'll hear along with the video:
Pretty moving, right?
WOMEN UNITED IN RITUAL
On her website Max Dashi writes that spiritual spheres of power have been crucial staging areas for women's political leadership, for challenging systems of domination, and for making change. Women can connect to one another and form bonds through spiritual and ritual expression; these images from True Blood illustrate that:
In Arlene's time of need, Holly joined with her in a powerful ritual that even if it wasn't effective in terms of eliminating her unwanted pregnancy, gave her renewed sense that she could trust another woman and feel empowered to control her body.
Look at these images from archaic history of women joined in ritual; the first comes from Elinor Gadon's The Once and Future Goddess - here we see females, maybe Goddesses, maybe her priestesses, joined together in the esctatic dance that was part of Goddess religious devotion. The second is a plate from Max Dashu's Suppressed Histories illustrating a similar scene:
Do you see any resemblance between these ancient images of woman-centered religious activity and the one from True Blood below?
We can see that traditions of women's solidarity have lived in our past and continue to live in our future; both in the new mythology of True Blood and in our real lives as well.
So what, you ask?
I'll talk about why women's solidarity matters in the fifth and final installment of this Real Grrrl Power series!
Austen, H. I. (1990). The heart of the goddess: Art, myth and meditations of the world’s sacred feminine. Berkeley: Wingbow Press
Gadon, E. W. (1989). The once and future Goddess. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco
Lowinsky, N.R. (1992). Stories from the motherline: Reclaiming the mother-daughter bond, finding our feminine souls. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc.
Noble, V. (1991). Shakti woman: Feeling our fire, healing our world. The new female shamanism. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.